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A Guide to Dental Prosthetics

Dental laboratory technicians craft dental prosthetics for over 35 million Americans. Take a look at what they do every day.

If you’re a dental laboratory technician, you’ll spend your days making prosthetics that patients will use every day to smile, speak, and express themselves. It’s a growing, necessary industry, with over 35 million Americans missing at least one tooth. This is a brief guide to the prosthetics, large and small, that DLTs make every single day.


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Crowns are simple, common, and made of a variety of materials, such as ceramic.

Dental crowns are the smallest and simplest dental prosthetics.


Crowns are one of the simplest types of dental prosthetics. If a problem tooth is still strong enough to sit in its socket, it can be capped with metal or ceramic. Ideally crowns blend in seamlessly with the natural teeth around them, matching the shape and color of the tooth they replace. If a DLT has done their job properly, a casual observer will not be able to distinguish a crown from its natural neighbors.


Related resource: How to Make a Difference: Dental Laboratory Technician Edition


Bridges are very similar to crowns, but sit atop more than one tooth.

Dental bridges cover two or more teeth.


Bridges are similar to crowns, but sit on two or more teeth, bridging what could be an expansive gap in a patient’s mouth (hence the name). When a bridge spans several teeth, it’s essentially a combination of two crowns and several false teeth. The two anchoring teeth on either end are known as abutment teeth, which hold the intervening false teeth in place. Like crowns, bridges are matched to their neighbors in color and shape and work in concert with a patient’s natural teeth.


Related resource: 4 Things No One Tells You About Being a DLT


Dentures are among the most recognizable dental prosthetics.

Dentures can be partial or complete.


Dentures are probably the best-known and most recognizable of dental prosthetics. A full set of dentures is an iconic image of dental technology. Dentures can be either full or partial and are held in a patient’s mouth by suction or surrounding muscles. Unlike crowns or bridges, full dentures do not need to match the color or shape of any natural teeth they’ll be sharing space with. Dentures can be straight, white, and look even better than the real thing.


Related resource: 6 Lifehacks for Taking Care of Your Teeth

Dental implants

Dental implants can totally replace one or more of a patient's teeth.

Dental implants join with the patient’s jaw.


Dental implants are the most comprehensive and complicated dental prosthetics. Just like the other prosthetics mentioned here, implants can permanently replace several of a patient’s teeth. However, unlike crowns or bridges that sit on top of natural, still-rooted teeth, dental implants are attached to a patient’s jaw and abutments sit on top of the implant. DLTs craft the crowns that will sit on top of that abutment. This makes dental implants a more involved project from the patient and dentist’s perspective, but for DLTs it is much like crafting any other crown.


Whatever the type of prosthetic, though, they all greatly increase patient well-being. Replacing one or more teeth with a finely crafted prosthetic made by a skilled dental laboratory technician improves speech, confidence, and (of course) the ability to chew food. And a great smile makes all the difference.


Are you ready to craft prosthetics as a dental lab tech? Take a moment to learn more about Utah’s only accredited dental laboratory technician program, and keep in touch with the Ameritech community on Facebook.

A Guide to Dental Prosthetics